Four games into the season it’s time to take stock of one of the, now annually, top high school football teams in Class B.
On Friday night the Scottsbluff Bearcats beat Sterling out of Colorado by the final score of 36-13 as they improved to 4-0 on the season.
The early season schedule has also produced wins over North Platte and state ranked foes Hastings and Grand Island Northwest.
This all coming after an offseason that saw some heavy graduation losses and some major coaching changes.
Jud Hall, after a decade with the program, took over for Joe Benson in the head coaching spot. The staff also lost longtime assistants Mark Moran and Todd Menghini.
You’ve heard of Garrett Nelson, right? He’s currently a second string outside linebacker at Nebraska. They lost Nelson off of last year’s roster along with guys like Keegan Reifschneider, Chris Busby, and Jeremiah Delzer (the other three captains from last year’s team).
This 2019 edition of the Bearcats has been good in all three phases of the game so far…
This side of the ball is averaging 35.7 points per game through the first four and on the ground they’re putting up 358.8 per game and they’re averaging 84 yards per game passing (That includes a -1 passing game showing at Northwest).
Scottsbluff has the star power in the backfield with senior quarterback Sabastian Harsh and senior running back Jacob Krul and they also feature an outstanding offensive line that has four seniors and a junior; Sam Clarkson, Terrance Mokeac, Tyler Smith, Creighton Dike, and Joe McCloud as well as tight ends Jack Darnell and Trevor Schwartz.
The coaching staff has referred to that blocking unit as maybe the best in their time here at SHS.
Clarkson is getting some major looks from D-2 schools and now even some D-1 attention. One look at his latest highlight film shows why as he’s been mauling opponents all season.
Now back to the ball carriers. Sabastian Harsh through four games has rushed for 636 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 9.6 yards per carry. In the passing game he’s thrown for 336 yards with four touchdowns and just one interception.
Running mate Jacob Krul, getting his first and only shot to be the man in a long line of great running backs, has made the most of his opportunity by averaging 8.2 ypc and leading the team in rushing with 657 yards in the first month of the season. Krul has 5 rushing touchdowns.
And despite losing a player of Reifschneider’s talent level the passing game has been just fine so far. Harsh has already connected with six different receivers and Caleb Walker, Luke Rohrer, and Schwartz already have touchdown catches.
When you lose Nelson along the D-line, and players like Delzer in the middle, and then secondary members Reifschneider, Busby, and Cameron Geary it wouldn’t have been a surprise if the defense took a major step back.
The one major returner from last year’s unit is defensive coordinator Jake McLain, and Coach Hall knows he’s got one of the best in the business in his guy calling defensive signals.
It also helps when you have one of the best football players in the state of Nebraska.
You saw the eye-popping numbers above from the offensive side of the football and it’s more of the same on the defensive side of the football. Just last Friday in the win over Sterling, Harsh recorded 13 total tackles, 11 of which were unassisted stops. He also threw in two stops behind the line of scrimmage and a couple quarterback hurries.
Coach Hall says he’s one of the most instinctive defenders he’s ever been around.
Jack Darnell has also been a standout on the defensive side of the football including a monster game in the opener against North Platte. Nick Maag doesn’t get talked about enough, he was near double digit tackles in the win over Northwest. Luke Rohrer is a rock in the middle.
And now that revamped secondary is starting to make more plays week to week with the likes of Alex Galindo, Brett Hill, Krul, Walker, and James Bruner.
You can’t forget the third phase of the game. When things get tight for this Scottsbluff team down the line later in the year it could be the difference between moving on and heading home.
In the kicking game senior Caleb Walker has converted 15 of 18 PAT’s and he’s been reliable for a couple years now in that department. Joe Benson last year called him a tireless worker in his place kicking duties.
Harsh has handled kickoffs most the season and he’s already accounted for 14 touchbacks while Walker has forced two touchbacks. So 16 times this year the Bearcats have forced the opposition to try and drive the ball 80 yards, which is a big advantage.
And again, Harsh is the punter and so far he’s averaged 40 yards per punt on 8 attempts.
Up next for the Bearcats is a trip across town to take on rival Gering with both teams still on completely different ends of the competitive spectrum. Gering is still trying to build their foundation for success in Josh Hiatt’s second year as head coach.
After that it’s a road trip to Sidney before home games against Lexington and Alliance and then a season ending trip to play arch rival McCook.
And then another trip to the postseason for Scottsbluff where they expect to be in the mix to make some noise at the end of the season.